Best Beer Pairings For Thanksgiving Dinner

Figuring out what beer to drink at Thanksgiving can be a daunting task, especially if you aren’t a “Bug light guy”.  We’ve put together this list of awesome beer pairings for Thanksgiving. This will help you navigate the dizzying array of great craft beers available can pair with all that Thanksgiving has to offer – from start to finish.


Beer Pairings for Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey and beer go hand in hand. But Thanksgiving isn’t all about turkey. Side dishes like stuffing or squash can easily be the star of the table spread. Or maybe your aunt’s green bean casserole is the dish that always leaves you slumped on the couch with the itis. So the best beer for Thanksgiving depends on your favorite dish. And a plus of knowing great beer-and-thanksgiving dinner pairings is that if you can’t cook, then don’t bother butchering candied yams, just bring a beer gift basket to share instead.  Everyone will love you that much more for the gift of not having to act as if they actually like your shit food.


Thirst Quenching Beer and Turkey Pairings

Hopefully the head cook has perfected their turkey recipe, and you’ll be served a juicy bird with golden brown, crunchy skin. But turkey is tricky. Even the most seasoned cooks can overcook the centerpiece dish and end up serving a dry turkey that needs a full gravy boat doused on it to be enjoyed.

With that in mind, it’s important to choose a beer pairing that is thirst quenching but won’t overpower the subtle flavors of turkey meat. So you’ll probably want to save hop-heavy IPAs until after dinner is served.

Your best strategy is to stick with a classic light lager style, or something similarly easy to drink like an Oktoberfest. These are great choices to wash down turkey with – whether perfectly cooked or too dry.


Beer Pairings for Turkey

Firestone Walker LagerA German Helles style lager that is bright with subtle citrus notes. A smooth beer that is balanced by a slight hop finish.

Brooklyn Pilsner – This pilsner forgoes the hops that often define craft pilsners brewed in the U.S., focus more on subtle flavors and light sweetness to round out the beer.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest – A classic Oktoberfest that is a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s toasted bread notes and smooth caramel sweetness captures the flavors of fall. Great Lakes adds a friendly, piney hop bite at the end, which will clean your palate for when you’re ready for another bite.


Beer Pairings For Staying True to Your Roots

Squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rutabaga (such a fun word to say), and carrots.

The magic of Thanksgiving is found underground in root vegetables AKA tubers. However you prefer your roots—roasted, pureed, mashed— these side dishes pack big autumnal flavors.

When slow cooked, fall vegetables have an entrancing aroma and taste of deep earthy sweetness and starch that creates a truly satisfying bite. A tart beer like an American Brett, or Flanders Style Red, adds a nice balance to the richness of roasted root vegetables.


Beer Pairings for Root Vegetables

Duchesse de Bourgogne Flanders Red AleOne of the flagship Flanders-style beers available in the states. Barrel aging infuses oaky notes and an underpinning creaminess that carries the tart cherry flavor that this beer is known for.

Goose Island LolitaAnother barrel aged beer. This one from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company is aged with fresh raspberries which gives it a rich fruity sweetness and maintains the sour funk you want from an American Wild Ale.


Beer Pairings For Laying The Mac Down

The southern United States has been enjoying helping after helping of Baked Mac and Cheese on Thanksgiving while the rest of us are stuck trying to pass off the canned cranberry sauce to the dog.  Tastes like a can-berries, yum!

It’s a great side dish and an easy crowd favorite— especially if you have a finicky kids’ table that always offends the host by crying for Spaghettios instead of eating turkey.

Mac and cheese offers a lot of variety for beer pairings. If you want to contrast the heaviness of pasta and cheese, then go light. If you want a beer that doubles down on the heartiness dish, then make it the ultimate comfort food with a heavier brown ale. We opt for the lighter, contrasting pairing.


Mac and Cheese Beer Pairings

Firestone Walker Pivo PilsThis is a great California-style beer. With a distinct hop profile,  it will help cut through the rich melted cheese to offer refreshment, and it’s light enough to not take up too much real estate that in your stomach. Because you’ll want to save some room for dessert.

Hitachino White Ale – A truly perfect beer. This white ale is packed with orange zest and spice like white pepper that will pair perfectly with mac and cheese. Even with the spice, the beer is light enough not to overpower the dish, but compliment the creaminess and baked-in crunch of mac and cheese.


Beer Pairings For Smoking Up

Though the Thanksgiving ideal is a perfectly cooked Turkey, some families break from tradition, or have different traditions altogether for their centerpiece dish.

A popular Turkey alternative is smoked beef brisket, although if you are like my family you may actually smoke your turkey as well, making it deeee-licious.  Anyways, it’s a rich, fatty meat that is more forgiving to amateur chefs than any poultry. Brisket’s robust flavor and smokiness recommends a pairing of heavier beers, which is probably attractive to most craft beer heads. So if you prefer dark stouts instead of pale lagers, than you may want to swap the turkey baster for a smoker and upgrade to a smoked brisket on Thanksgiving.


Beers to Pair with Smoked Brisket

Left Hand Nitro Milk StoutOne of the first craft beers to take a cue from Guiness, the progenitor of the nitro-draft craze, by adding nitrogen to its beer. Nitrogen creates smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, which gives Left Hand’s Milk Stout its smooth, velvety body. It’s a rich beer, but without a cloying sweetness, so its coffee and brown sugar notes are prominent. It’s a perfect pairing for barbecue that enhances the brisket flavor profile instead of contrasting them.


Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout – This beer is aged for 3-months in Wild Turkey Bourbon barrels. The result is a creamy beer with hints of vanilla and oak, and a significant but balanced malt presence. Weighing in with a 6.9% ABV, it’s a welterweight when compared to many other barrel aged stouts, so you can enjoy a few with dinner without worrying about embarrassing yourself in front of the in-laws or falling asleep before desert. High alcohol content makes for a difficult food pairing, so the lower ABV is a plus for this beer.


Best Beer Pairings for Living The Dolce Vita

Dessert after a Thanksgiving meal is an act of digestive gilding the lily. It seems like overkill to add pie, ice cream, or cake to your calorie intake after plowing through a sprawling buffet just an hour or so before. But gluttony be damned! Pie and coffee after Thanksgiving dinner isn’t gilding the lily, it’s the cigarette after sex.

Pairing beer with dessert can be tricky. Because most desserts are sweet with high sugar content, your beer choice must match the dessert’s sweetness. If there is a big gap in sugar content, the beer’s taste will be jarring and astringent, which in turn can make the dessert taste cloyingly sweet.

It’s best to opt for beers that have sweeter profiles to match the dessert. While contrasting flavors is a great pairing philosophy for main courses, it’s less desirable when pairing beer with dessert.


Best Beer Pairings for Dessert

Ayinger Brewery Bräu Weisse – A classic German wheat beer. It’s bready and creamy wheat flavors will carry the sweetness of your dessert, whether fruity or chocolate, and the banana and clove spice will pair well with most any dessert.

Tripel Karmeliet – The name of this beer just sounds sweet on your tongue. And the beer itself is true to its name. Tripel Karmeliet is creamy and rich, with marquee flavors of vanilla and banana. It’s a rich beer, notching an 8.4% ABV, so it’s got a heavy malt presence. It will match step for step with any dessert you have. It wouldn’t be frowned upon if want to skip the pie, and opt for this beer alone as your liquid dessert.


A Cornucopia of Takeaways for Pairing Beer with Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey – Pair pale lagers that are crisp and refreshing with Turkey so the meat won’t be overpowered by the beer.

Root Vegetables – Fruity and tart are great contrasting flavors for the earthy sweetness of root vegetables.

Creamy Dishes – When having a creamy dish like mac and cheese, you want a medium bodied beer that is refreshing, like a white ale. These beers are flavorful enough to stand with Mac n Cheese, but not heavy enough to crowd your stomach.

Smoked Beef – Think stouts, with coffee and chocolate notes that will pair well with the smokey, fatty flavors of barbecue.

Dessert – Don’t look to contrast a sweet dessert with a beer that is astringent. Maintain a level of sweetness in your beer to match the sugar content of your dessert.


We hope you enjoyed our post on the perfect beer pairing for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or any beer combos you enjoy during the family feast.



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